Patents play only a part

August 6, 2009

We have two observations on Craig Evan Klafter's article on university patenting ("The missing link", 23 July).

Klafter bases his argument on universities that employ patent lawyers: we take this to mean being on the payroll. We are not aware of any university technology-transfer office in the UK that employs patent attorneys in this way, but there may be some. At Isis Innovation, we have no patent lawyers on staff: instead, we use patent attorneys in private practice to provide expertise. This means we can identify the best attorney for each invention we wish to protect.

We do employ a growing team of project managers with science PhDs and first-hand business experience, so that they can facilitate interactions between researchers and business people, leading to licensing and consulting deals.

There is more to university technology transfer than patenting, and while better trained patent lawyers would not be a hindrance, neither is it a major issue.

Further, counting patents is only a small part of assessing the impact of technology transfer. The real issues in the UK and continental Europe are encouraging firms to engage with universities, embrace open-innovation models and license technologies from our world-class research base.

Linda Naylor, head of technology transfer; Tom Hockaday, managing director, Isis Innovation, University of Oxford.

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